Families at Paisley IB Magnet School got a taste of India Tuesday night at an event bringing to life parts of a new book being read by students.
Author Monika Schroder spoke to several dozen students and parents about the eight years she spent living in India, the inspiration for her book “Saraswati’s Way.” The story follows Akash, a poor 12-year-old runaway, trying to chase his dream of a good education in impoverished India. Though the story is fiction, Schroder — who now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina — said much of the story is based on real struggles she witnessed. Schroder said she hopes that when students read her book, they not only learn something about another part of the world, but also about the value of their education.
“This is a book about a boy striving for a better education,” Schroder said.
Tuesday’s event was highlighted by Schroder’s talk, but also featured traditional Indian dance and food. The event was organized by Ruth Wilcox, Paisley’s school library media coordinator, as a family literacy night. Students were encouraged to read the book with a parent. A $500 mini-grant from the National Center for Family Literacy funded the program, which Wilcox said she hoped would start a dialogue between students and parents. The Bookmarks Foundation also helped sponsor the event.
“This is a way to give families a reason to come together,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox made books available to students, and provided them with discussion questions they could take home.
Sixth-grader Bailey Brown has lots of questions when reading the book, said his mother, Betsy Brown. Betsy and Bailey read the book together, something they do together often.
“We like reading all kinds of books together,” Bailey said. “This was a really exciting, kind of dangerous story.”
Betsy said they read a lot of adventure books, but “Saraswati’s Way” had a special message.
“Reading about a boy his age but without the advantages he has was good for him,” Betsy said.
For many students at Paisley, the challenges of poverty are not confined to pages in a book. More than 90 percent of Paisley students are considered “economically disadvantaged.” Events like this one help broaden horizons, Wilcox said. It also supports the school’s international theme.
JaLisa Lumpkin, an eighth-grader at Paisley, is still reading the book but attended at the urging of her mother, Jewanna Switzer, who came, too.
“I told her it would open her up to different cultures and let her see different things,” Switzer said.